When the Language of Grief Includes Swearing


CATEGORY: Grief and Loss
Language can feel limited when it comes to expressing the overwhelming and huge emotions of grief. Sad, depressed, overwrought, and angry just don't cut the mustard. 

When there are no words, swearing works. Sometimes adults curse in expressing their grief. And that's perfectly okay.  While it's fairly common to hear a millennial say "This f...ing sucks," it can seem shocking to hear an 80-year-old say "I hate this s..t. It wasn't supposed to be like this." As startling as this may be, it captures our attention.

Curse words are powerful and full of emotion. They inform the listener. They bring people together. Swearing acknowledges pain. There are certainly other words that describe emotions and for some, they work well. But for others, cursing illuminates the heightened intensity of the grief. These words are shocking and uncomfortable. While there are words to describe anger and despair, it's hard to find words to alleviate grief. Swearing can release the pressure that grief builds up inside and offer a little relief in the moment.

In grief work, the bereaved are encouraged to honestly express their feelings.  If they censor their language, it could be tantamount to asking them to stop their grief responses.  Sometimes the best words to use are profane. Emotions are raw. Pain is unbelievable. And swearing gives the grief language. When a curse word escapes the griever's lips, he or she may apologize or feel shame.  Swearing isn't polite. It isn't socially acceptable. That being said, it is the role of the friend or health care professional to listen unconditionally without judgement.

Talking about death and dying and grief and loss is difficult. If your language of grief includes swearing, curse away. Don't edit or stifle your feelings. Give yourself permission to grieve in the way that works for you, using words that express your emotions and give you release. Find people that will listen with kindness and compassion.

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